Tuesday, 17 May 2011

review: A Map of the Known World

by Lisa Ann Sandell
Scholastic Press, 2009
contemporary young adult
received from publisher (thank you!)

Cora can't escape the presense of her older brother Nate, even after his death. At school, teachers expect her to follow his destructive path while other students give her a wide berth. At home, her mother tries too hard to regain normal while her father locks himself up in a den of ice. And then there's Damian, Nate's best friend, who was with Nate in the fatal car crash -- only Damian made it out alive. At first Cora can't help but blame him, but as she gets to know the secret side of Nate through art, through Damian, she learns how to get to know her own heart.
The cover:

The collection of scrap pieces forming the heart is beautiful (though perhaps a more spray-painted effect would've made it more realistic). Black as a background, however, doesn't fly -- it just looks lazy on the book designer's part. A faintly patterned darkish background would've worked better.

The book:

As expected of this kind of "healing" novel, it opens with much first-person musing. Thanks to Cora's gentle-worded narration, the reader makes it through relatively easily. In fact, her soliloquoys are often what develop her character best, in the most pleasing way.

The secondary characters shine as well: Damian is suitably moody, but not flashingly hot like so many paranormal genre stars; think "handsome", which is refreshing. His attention and affection towards Cora makes their relationship a heartwarming one ot read about. Helena is bubbly without being too girly-girl-ish, and we love her all the more for bringing Cora out of her shell.

Themes of discovery and redemption through art fit well into the story, especially when dealing with the parents' situation. They do tend to overpower the acutal plot so that the whole storyline is about recovering, healing. Maps pop up again and again, becoming almost a kind of symbolism for escape. It's an excellent way to establish the setting, too.

A Map of the Known World touches base as a love story, a story of becoming, of redefining. A quiet read well worth your time.

Rating: 4.6 out of 5